A recent outbreak of HIV among people who inject drugs in Lawrence and Lowell, Massachusetts, has led to renewed concerns about transmission in this population. Antiretroviral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) has been proven effective in preventing HIV infection, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and now the US Preventive Services Task Force recommend providing PrEP to people who inject drugs.
But a new study led by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers finds people who inject drugs have little knowledge of PrEP, with more than half of respondents saying they had never heard of it.
The study, published in AIDS Patient Care and STDs, also found that low knowledge in this population may reflect the degree to which PrEP marketing and outreach is directed at men who have sex with men.
“There just aren’t many public or private investments being made in getting accurate PrEP information to people who inject drugs, and very little research is focused on identifying ways to improve this knowledge gap and increase PrEP access and uptake,” says study lead author Dr. Angela Bazzi, assistant professor of community health sciences at BUSPH.
Dr. Bazzi and her colleagues conducted in-depth, semi-structured interviews with HIV-uninfected people who inject drugs, recruited from local community-based organizations, including needle exchange programs and drop-in HIV testing centers, in Boston and Providence.
They found that only 12 of the 33 participants had ever heard of PrEP, and only one had taken PrEP before. Some of the participants who had heard about PrEP did not know that it was currently available, were not sure what it was, or confused it with post-exposure prophylaxis.
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